Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm Always Improving, and Trying to Become the Best Version Of Myself.

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At 17 years of age, I was told I had a 10, maybe 20% chance of surviving my next 5 years... I was shocked... Devastated. WHY WAS I GIVEN THIS CURSE AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?

But I managed to get past that. I took a step back, saw a second way of looking at it and stuck to the way that was constructive, the way that would help me get better.

Instead of seeing my youth in the cancer as a curse, I saw it as a blessing. I knew that because of my youth I could get the hardest treatments possible and still recover, I wouldn't have other things like heart problems, other health issues or family to worry about and that I'd be considered for all possible curative treatments because of it. And by seeing it that way, and by viewing the chemos and bone marrow transplants as possible cures rather than painful experiences, I was able to do better than just survive and improve my chances of benefiting from treatment - I was able to do it with a SMILE on my face (well, at least when I wasn't in pain or sick).

But people tend to forget that cancer is a marathon... It's been nearly 3 years since I was diagnosed, and I'm still getting treatment - on top of the 6 rounds of chemotherapy, 1 near fatal dose of radiation and 2 bone marrow transplants that I've already had. 

Because of my mentality, I can still keep smiling. 

I didn't always follow my "3 steps to stay happy" throughout my journey... I spent almost a year after my first transplant hating how I looked and myself for my fitness before realising I was making myself miserable for something I couldn't control... I spent weeks going through depression and anxiety over some of my treatments before I got past that... and at times the fact that I'm not normal yet STILL GETS TO ME...
In fact I think it's something a lot of cancer survivors feel... we're expected, almost stereotyped  to be grateful, happy, enlightened human beings - but it's not as easy as that... but I'll talk about all of that later, in another post. Watch this space.

What I tell myself, constantly, to get out of these cycles is to take a step back, look at where I am and what I'm doing wrong and then looking at all other possibilities, all paths open for me to take - and then choosing to believe in the path that will keep me happiest and healthiest. 

And now, after 3 years of doing this, I find that I look at EVERYTHING in life that way.

It started off as a means of adapting... surviving. A means of keeping myself happy and pushing myself forwards into health. 

But it's become much more than that. 


And, despite all the physical suffering I've gone through (and still go through today), despite all the setbacks it's put me through, I think it's changed me for the better. 

How has it changed me? 

Well, how I dealt with my cancer - to always see the second, more constructive way of looking at things - is how I live my life now. 

My ideology; How I view the world:

Don't just look at problems - think of SOLUTIONS TO THEM.

I've become someone who looks beyond why something's not working or why bad things may have happened; someone who instead thinks about ways to fix them or stop them from happening again. 
And I don't just do it to improve how i look at my health and to improve myself; I also try and suggest solutions to problems in the world, and try to get others to do it too, through my writing. 

It's why in all my previous blog posts I always try and not only talk about problems, or how things have affected me, but also on how YOU, the reader can benefit and apply them in your life, or to someone else who may need some help. When I told my story for the first time, I made sure others could also learn to be as positive as I was, to all their problems. When I told you how I managed to beat my self-consciousness and social anxiety after all my treatments, how I managed to beat depression and anxiety which kept holding me back, how I got over the loss of close friends and how I stopped myself from stressing or worrying about my health and about life, I also made sure YOU, and anyone who read them, could also do the same in your lives. 

And I don't just limit it to my blog posts either... I literally do it all the time.

Whenever I hear about an issue, a disturbing trend or a problem, I think about how we can fix them. When I heard about this sad story of a 10 year old boy being killed by his father, who had an AVO out against him, I didn't just lament for the boy and his family, I looked at possible ways we could stop this from happening again; maybe by putting more serious deterrents to people with AVOs such as GPS trackers, maybe by offering better protection services or by raising awareness for such issues. 

Whenever I see new discoveries on the news, I don't just think, "wow, that's awesome!" I think about the possible applications of it, the meanings of it and how we can use it to improve ourselves. When I heard about a new, deep inner sea of water discovered in the Earth's mantle, I immediately wondered whether we could utilise this water if we ever needed to, or whether it may have an impact on the tectonic plates of our continents, or even if may affect Earth's orbit as it spins, and whether these things could be monitored to give insight into future weather patterns, or disastrous events. 

Don't Be Afraid About Being Wrong, or Admitting You're Wrong:

I mean those suggestions I just made, they're not perfect and they're probably wrong on some level, but that's just how my mind thinks. 

I don't mind if I'm wrong. I'm not embarrassed about it, and I don't mind when people criticise me either - because another part of my ideology now, something my father and mother have instilled into me, is that putting ideas or thoughts out there is never bad. If someone does knock any of my ideas down, it's only an opportunity to improve on them, or to an opportunity to re-evaluate my preconceptions and admit that I'm wrong and focus on other things that can help me, and others around me. 

When I do suggest solutions to problems, I first off attack my own ideas in my mind, see where they fall short and then assess whether they'd be good ones or bad ones, or whether they'd even be worth it in the end. I look at other people's own suggestions and ideas and use their experiences and knowledge to build on my own too. 
Then, when I do put them out there, or talk about them with friends or with people interested by it, any of the points they make, I add to my own suggestions to make them stronger. 
Any criticisms, I use them to improve my idea and make it more bullet-proof. If they point out that I'm wrong about something or why something may not work, I go back to the drawing board and start from point one. 
And that's how my blog posts on how to improve medicine and people's health overall (in addition to my more inspirational posts) are made.

When I heard about a new breast cancer screening tool, called the MBI that promises to drastically improve breast cancer outcomes from the current best technology - mammograms, I thought about the wider uses of it, possible extra applications of it and then about wider improvements we could make to research altogether too (that getting experts together from differing fields could lead to more, better innovation). Once I was told that I may have been scaring women away from getting annual mammograms, which still do find cancer early for women, I amended that blog post and put out this post on Facebook encouraging women to get them done

In response to something that almost affected me, the lack of blood donors and people on the bone marrow donor registry, I first off thought about why people didn't want to give blood. From research, my own surveys and just thinking about it, came to the conclusion that it was a combination of the pain and effort involved and ignorance on how it worked. My solution to it was to not only educate people on the actual blood donation and registration process (donating blood takes 6 - 10 minutes, only involves 1 small, blood test like prick and joining the registry only takes a 10mL blood test), but to also show them how giving blood is actually beneficial to them. I figured getting people to see benefits in giving blood and joining that registry, outside of the fact that you got to save 3 lives each donation and people like me who need BMTs, you'd get even more people donating and cause a difference. And it has worked! That post alone got 1500 views in 1.5 days, and sits at nearly 2500 views now! 
And in fact - on my Facebook pages alone, 2 people have contacted me saying they've not only registered for the bone marrow registry, but also are ACTUALLY DONATING THEIR STEM CELLS! Which is impressive, considering there's only a 1/400 chance you'll get called up in TEN YEARS of being on that registry!

Always Stay Open To Everything:

Another part of my ideology is that I'm always open to more than 1 perception, or one view of looking at the world, in everything in life. I know we don't know everything, I ALWAYS acknowledge that, and I never blind myself to other ideas by staying stuck on 1 point, or behind 1 party or behind 1 idea and because of that, I'm always open to new ways of looking at things, and new ways to improve myself.

In my last post, on Evidence Based Medicine (where doctors always rely on statistics and data to make clinical decisions), something ALL doctors are taught to abide by, I acknowledged that there are flaws to it. That by disregarding everything unproven, when many things simply haven't, or can't be proven, we doctors may, in our arrogant belief that we know it all, be stopping patients from accessing other treatments that may just help, alongside regular, proven treatment - which is still the best, proven way to beat sickness. Even though I argue about the effectiveness of alternative treatments with my parents all the time, I still acknowledge that some of their suggestions don't hurt to try - and in fact actually benefits me, so I follow it, despite being wary of it, because who knows - it may just work - read about my experience with alternative medicine here.

In one of my earliest posts, Hope in Medicine, I argued that while doctors shouldn't give false hope to patients, they shouldn't shy away from giving any hope whatsoever when it was there, and that indeed, in their position of trust and knowledge, they may just hold the key to getting patients to be happy and should also involve themselves in doing that, where possible. 
But of course, at some points I know there are places to make a stand. Like in vaccinations - which are undoubtedly a smart thing to do (any claims that vaccinations cause autism is based on fraud) which I talked about here. If there was any viable evidence against vaccinations, I'd be open to them, but none exist. In other technologies though, like this one which is promising to stop Dengue fever by genetically modifying mosquitoes that produce offspring doomed to die (which eventually kills off mosquitoes - the only thing to spread the virus) and releasing them into the wild, I remain vigil of the possible ecological implications of killing off an entire species, despite some very passionate people backing it outright who disagree. Overall though - I think that's an awesome way of combating a very serious disease infectious disease that infects an estimated 50 - 500million people per year (including my grandmother once), and still think it's a good idea - though trials should complete before making any serious decisions. 

Overall - I'm always trying to improve myself, and to improve the world around me.

That's How I Write... And That's HOW I THINK.

And I Believe YOU Should Too!

How I think has gotten me through cancer and made sure I smiled through it. And it keeps me interested in everything in life, it's made me smarter, more able to think widely and has also given me tremendous purpose in life. 
Thinking this way should help you in the exact same way. And if you ever need help in any issues - feel free to contact me about it... And...

In fact I'm gonna write a book about this ideology...
When I finally end up doing it =P

I'm not perfect by any means - But I'm ALWAYS IMPROVING! And I hope this helps, and motivates you to always improve too. 

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